Considering not only my profession (as an English teacher), and my absolute love of reading (my personal goal each year is to read 100 books!), it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to discover that I have a small crush on travel guidebooks.
While it may be true that the majority of information in travel guidebooks can be found on the Internet, I’m of the opinion that there’s not much comparison between the two options; and when it comes down to it, I vote for the guidebook as the final source of information.
For the most part, they’re reasonably priced, easy to find, and you have a multitude of options for whatever destination you’re planning on visiting. On top of this, there is something about the feel of a new book that is unbeatable (at least to literary nerds such as myself).
The only small problem that arises is when you step foot in your local bookstore, face the travel section, and find 6 books on your next location. Oops. Which one do you choose? I’m pretty sure buying 6 guides for your trip isn’t the most logical decision, which is why I’ve put together a bit of a “review” of some of the major travel guides available.
Rick Steves’ guidebooks focus on Europe, so they don’t have the largest market. What they lack in worldwide reviews they make up for in accurate, easy to understand information. When spending a few days in Rome last year his guidebook was invaluable to me (along with almost every other tourist I saw there). The books contain a ton of maps (both regular maps and “hand drawn” ones), and the format is easy to follow. Steves also focuses on helping you see things on your own by giving detailed self-tours. There is no large push to use certain tour companies, which is fantastic.
Is there anywhere in the world that Let’s Go doesn’t review? Unlike Rick Steves, who has such a small market, Let’s Go travel guides cover everywhere from North, South and Central America to Europe to Asia to the Middle East. The guides focus on budget travel that is still safe and enjoyable. Each book is geared towards a large geographical location, and then broken up into smaller areas (think of a US state as the main focus, and then counties as a smaller division). This really allows you to get an overview for the area and what to expect; they even include recent updates and what’s changed recently just in case this isn’t your first visit to that location.
Although they only cover the Americas and the Caribbean, Moon guides are another of my favorite (most recently used for our trip to Yosemite). Like the Let’s Go books, they organize their book by looking at small sections of the overall location. They’re honest though (because I don’t find that all travel guides are created equal), and integrate all of their information into an easy to read, concise format. There’s maps and pictures, and details on some historical and pop-culture information aspects thrown in; which in the end makes you very, very excited for your upcoming trip.
Fodor’s is probably the brand of travel guidebook that I use the most often, and for good reason. They are one of the most popular companies out there, and they produce guidebooks for practically any destination you could dream up. They’re insights are detailed and useful, they just tend to be a bit dry for me. It often feels like reading a textbook, while other travel guides paint more of a story to me. Depending on what you’re looking for, this may be the right choice for you-they’re both factual and well researched.
To me, one of the best part of Frommer’s is the way they include sample itineraries, along with a section titled “Best Of”. When you only have a limited amount of time in a location, these can both be fantastic resources to help with planning. The guidebooks themselves remind me quite a bit of Fodor’s, and are geared toward a wide range of travel interests; anywhere from sitting on a beach to hiking to exploring a city.
Do you find guidebooks useful for trips? Which guidebook gives out the best travel advice?
This is a guest post by Kayla Mundy.
Kayla Mundy is the founder of traveLove, a website created to chronicle her travels with those she loves (who make up her travel companions). An avid traveler in her plentiful time off (one of the perks of being an English teacher), she dreams of traveling the entire world one trip at a time. Follow Kayla on twitter.